In the photos above, your eye probably goes immediately to the bright lights. But look closer.
Last night, we walked through a Christmas light display that was designed and installed by our landscape company for a local organization. The hours and hours of work invested by our son and other employees somehow seemed worth it as we meandered through the bright lights on the warm, rather dreary evening.
As I am prone to do, I started snapping photos. The photos weren’t anything special because it wasn’t clear out and I only had my iphone, but I got a few for memories’ sake.
The two photos above are my favorites from last night. You see the overwhelming object of the photo — a tree filled with lights. But when you look closer you see a little child standing beneath.
As I reviewed my photos from last night, I also reviewed my past week. It wasn’t the dream week I had hoped for. Sickness tore through our family and that, combined with some other things that aren’t necessary to share here, made for a really disappointing week. Normally when our daughter and her family are here for Christmas we are together nonstop but that was put to a halt quickly with all the sickness. Last night was only the second time during the whole week that our family was all together. We met outside and took this little walk through the lights. God was so very good to give us a warm evening with no rain (an answer to prayer) to spend that last precious hour together before they went back home this morning.
When it all began I was so very upset. I was questioning: Why God? Why? We can only be together a few times a year. Why would we get sick? So. Disappointing.
But I bowed my will to God’s and made the best of it. No, it wasn’t what I dreamed of for the holiday but there are so many who have it worse. Perhaps even you were sitting at the holiday table this year without someone you love because they are in heaven. Or maybe you don’t even know if they are in heaven but they are gone from this earth (not knowing someone’s eternal destination leads to a whole different kind of sorrow.) Many have lost jobs or are worried about losing jobs. Trials, great and small, abound on this earth. They always have and they always will.
But I had to think of the photos above as I thought through this past week. At first, I could only see the trial. It was the “lighted tree” that filled my entire screen. It wasn’t until I yielded my will that I saw the precious treasure underneath the tree.
You see, one of the most difficult things of the week for me was coming face to face with my own sinful heart. If we are believers, we understand that our hearts are wicked and deceitful (Jeremiah 17:9). But, every now and again, we come to recognize this in a whole new way as we are faced with unexpected events and encounters and happenings totally outside of our control. And so God showed me–yet again– how much I need Him.
About halfway through the week, Romans 8:28-29 kept coming to mind. It struck me anew that God doesn’t promise to work all things out so that we will be happy. That’s what I want. I want Him to make me happy. We all do, if we are honest. We want happy and we want easy. But this isn’t what God promises.
Instead, He promises to conform us to His Son’s image.
This isn’t always a pleasant endeavor as we must endure the things that show our sinfulness and areas of weakness and rely on the Holy Spirit to bring transformation to our lives. As God gently (and sometimes not-so-gently) pries our hands, eyes, and hearts from this life, we look more like Christ and set our minds on things above. God uses all trials, no matter what size, to grow us. Through our submission to His will, we are given an opportunity that He has specially crafted just for us.
And so, eventually, I saw that tiny precious treasure standing beneath the trial. It took me too long. But I did eventually spot it.
As we head into 2022, I pray that we all will keep our eyes searching for the precious treasures that God has for us amidst the troubles and trials that are sure to loom so large in the coming year.
Because we know:
God is good all the time. And all the time God is good.
And we know that all things work together for good to those who love God, to those who are the called according to His purpose. 29 For whom He foreknew, He also predestined to be conformed to the image of His Son, that He might be the firstborn among many brethren.